A day after he said he’d pick USC quarterback Matt Barkley over Stanford’s Andrew Luck if he were an NFL head coach, Washington coach Steve Sarkisian stood by his comments Tuesday and explained why he was so high on Barkley.
This, of course, comes in advance of Sarkisian’s Huskies game against the Trojans on Saturday at the Coliseum.
“If I had a guy to run our system and what we’re doing and what Matt knows and what Lane’s been doing with him, I just think he’s playing at an extremely high level,” Sarkisian said in a Pac-12 coaches conference call. “That’s in no way a knock against Andrew Luck.
“That’s just what I see and what Matt Barkley’s doing this season for USC.”
In nine games this year, Barkley has completed 67 percent of his passes, an improvement of almost five percent from his 2010 numbers, for more than 2,600 yards. He’s also thrown 28 scores and six interceptions, good for a touchdown-pick ratio more than twice as good as his was in 2010.
He’s on pace to finish the 2011 season with nearly 3,500 yards passing, 37 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Two of those three key numbers would be better than the statistics posted by Matt Leinart in 2003 in what is generally considered the best-ever season for a USC quarterback.
“He’s arguably going to have the greatest quarterback season in USC history coming up here before this thing’s all said and done, and there’s been some tremendous quarterbacks there before him,” Sarkisian said Tuesday. “I have a hard time with anybody that could argue with that.”
Told of Sarkisian’s initial comments Monday, Barkley laughed them off and said Sarkisian was simply “pouring on the sugar.” He had a similar response when asked about it Tuesday.
“Of course he’s gonna say that,” Barkley said. “Kiff’s the same way. When it comes down to it, you’re always trying to up the other guys. I’m sure he respects me when it comes down to it.
“We’ll see what he says after the game."
Asked after the Trojans’ Tuesday practice what he thought of Sarkisian’s evaluation of his signal-caller from an NFL perspective, USC coach Lane Kiffin responded with a barb right back the other way, jokingly questioning Sarkisian’s capability as an NFL evaluator.
“He’s never been an NFL head coach, remember?” Kiffin said. “He turned it down. He made me go.
“Obviously, he’s already played Andrew Luck or else he wouldn’t have made that statement he made.”
Sarkisian and Kiffin are longtime friends dating back to their days as offensive assistants at USC under former coach Pete Carroll.
Sarkisian has also said this week that the Trojans have six first-round talents on their team in Barkley, left tackle Matt Kalil, receiver Robert Woods, wide receiver Marqise Lee, defensive end Nick Perry and safety T.J. McDonald and maintained for the second straight season that USC has the most talent of any Pac-12 team.
That has put undue pressure on USC’s coaching staff, Kiffin said. And, he joked, it’s also hurt their relationship.
"It's going downhill because he didn't help me at all when he said we had the most talented team again,” Kiffin said on the conference call when asked about the current status of their friendship. “We have all these great players so we must not be great coaches.
“It’s going the wrong direction.”